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Artist turns paper cuttings into coloring book

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This image from Sherri Jacobs’ coloring book is from Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27). Abraham, a man surrounded by idolatry, contemplates a different reality, and discovers the path of Monotheism. He is instructed to leave his land, his home and his family to journey to a distant place, and fulfill his destiny.

“The Illuminated Torah” 

by Sherri Jacobs

Available through Amazon.com

 

The adult coloring book market is booming, with no end in sight. So when Sherri Jacobs, an art therapist and artist herself, created paper cuttings for last year’s Midwest Jewish Artists Lab (MJAL), she decided they would be perfect as a coloring book. (See box for more information about MJAL.)

Paper cutting is an art form where an X-Acto Blade, knife or small scissors are used to cut images out of paper. Jacobs says it has a long Jewish history in Eastern Europe as well as Sephardic cultures because they were limited on materials.

Last year’s MJAL theme was “Echoes: Voices of Jewish Wisdom” and for her project Jacobs made 54 paper cuttings corresponding to each parashah in the Torah.

“I did them on black paper and I stuck white paper behind them so there were these nice cutouts,” she says. “As I saw them all framed and hung up together, it looked like something that could be turned into a coloring book.”

She says the trend of coloring books is a multimillion-dollar phenomenon right now, but many of them are too complex with small, complicated designs, which can be frustrating for people with poor vision or poor motor skills. Her images have wider spaces making them easier to color in.

Jacobs predicts the coloring book market is here to stay and that the next level will include content along with images.

“Each one of my pages has a one- or two-line explanation of what the story is about,” she says. “It’s nothing dogmatic, nothing religious, just a straight story — this is what happened, this is what the story represents in this section of the Torah.”

Jacobs self-published “The Illuminated Torah,” which went straight to Amazon. She says she designed it so it could be for a Christian market as well as a Jewish market. She is finding that people are using it as an educational tool or family activity.

As an art therapist, Jacobs says she never has enough time to create her own art, but participating in MJAL forced her to sit down and get busy on a project. Up to now, she has worked mostly with metal, creating jewelry. She’s never done paper cutting before.

“I think this artists’ lab forced a lot of us artists who were part of it to push ourselves a little bit out of our comfort zone,” explains Jacobs. “Doing that many paper cuts definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone because I hadn’t really ever completely owned that type of art.

“I wanted to teach myself how to do it and then I just took it one step further by self-publishing and putting myself out there on Amazon. And I’m already getting nice responses.”

Amazon pays royalties on each book sold, so she’s getting paid in dollars, crowns and euros. She says the book is selling well in the United States, England and Europe.

The feedback she’s getting from her clients indicates they are not only seeking out coloring books for relaxation, but are also looking for solutions and answers. She believes adding a little bit of content can help people through their problems.

Jacobs is planning to do more coloring books in the future. Her initial idea, she says, was to make a guide for caregivers of people with dementia. But after completing about a quarter of an elaborate coloring book with art directives for each section and each image, she realized she needed to keep it simple.

So she’s now planning to do themed coloring books on grief, divorce, dementia, etc. Her work as an art therapist as well as marriage and family therapist provides her with a lot of ideas.

“I’m just hoping that I’ve hit a market,” Jacobs says. “In doing my research for adult coloring books, it seems like no one has created a coloring book like this for the entire Torah, so I’m hoping in a creative way this can enhance the creative arts community and the Jewish community and beyond. And I’m hoping there will be more.”

Midwest Jewish Artists Lab

On display now at the Jewish Community Center is an exhibition of ‘Outside | Inside: Exploring Boundaries and Otherness,’ this year’s theme of the Midwest Jewish Artists Lab.

MJAL is a six-city program engaging more than 80 professional Jewish artists from the Kansas City metro area, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Madison, Wisconsin, and Chicago. This is Kansas City’s second year of participation, with funding provided by The Covenant Foundation.

The kickoff event for this year took place in Kansas City in September, with a three-day event sponsored by The J. About 60 artists came from all over the Midwest.

A final exhibition of the culmination of the Kansas City artists’ work will take place this summer at The J.

In Kansas City, the Jewish Artists Lab is run by Jill Maidhof, director of Jewish experiences at The J. Each year MJAL has a theme agreed upon by the participants, which the artists explore through Jewish sources related to that theme.

Artists here meet every other week with Maidhof and Rabbi Shaya Katz of the Kansas City Kollel to study and discuss Jewish texts.

MJAL is also a community engagement program in which artists share their work with the public. Last year in Kansas City, public workshops were offered in addition to the final exhibition and performance, to get people of all ages involved.

For more information about MJAL and the artists, go to www.kcjal.org.